Spin the numbers: Telling different story of ratings for U.S. Open

The narrative for this year’s U.S. Open was that the ratings were at historic lows.

From Sports Media Watch:

Fox Sports’ first ever U.S. Open ended with near-record low numbers.

Final round coverage of the U.S. Open earned a 4.2 final rating and 6.7 million viewers on FOX Sunday, up 40% in ratings and 46% in viewership from last year’s record-low (3.0, 4.6M), but down 22% and 20%, respectively, from 2013 (5.4, 8.4M). Compared to previous West Coast editions of the U.S. Open, ratings and viewership declined 30% from 2012 (6.0, 9.6M) and 28% from 2010 (5.8, 9.3M).

From Paul Dougherty of the Albany Times-Union:

The final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, played in prime time on the East Coast, delivered a 4.8 overnight Nielsen rating on Fox, perhaps a bit of a disappointment considering the closeness of Jordan Spieth’s victory at Chambers Bay.

The rating is 27 percent lower than the final round in 2012 (6.6), the last time the final round aired in prime time, and 44 percent lower than the prime-time airing in 2008, when Tiger Woods forced a Monday playoff against Rocco Mediate (8.5).

OK, but there’s more to the story.

For starters, the 4.2 rating is the average for all of Fox’s coverage on Sunday. Fox was on the air for more than 10 hours. It came on at 2 p.m. Eastern, when Jordan Spieth was finishing breakfast in Seattle. It was four hours before the final group went off the first tee. The early ratings were low, not surprisingly, affecting Fox’s overall average.

Meanwhile, NBC only had six hours of primetime coverage for the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic in San Francisco. It wasn’t as spread out, and thus had a higher overall average.

According to Fox, on a total minutes viewed basis, the 2015 U.S. Open beat 8 of the last 10 U.S. Opens.

Here’s another KEY point: Tiger Woods was long gone from Chambers Bay on the weekend. That wasn’t the case at the previous West Coast Opens.

In 2012, Woods was tied for the lead going into the third round. Even though he stumbled with a 75 on Saturday, he still had potential to bounce back on that Sunday.

In 2010 at Pebble Beach, Woods and Phil Mickelson were in the hunt going into the back 9 and eventually finished fourth. And everyone knows the story of what Woods did at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Bottom line: When Woods is a factor in any tournament, there is a ratings spike of 50 percent, maybe more, especially for a major. So you’re not looking at an apples-to-apples situation in the context of comparing 2015’s tournament to previous West Coast Opens.

One more point: Sunday’s final-round broadcast peaked with 11.2 million viewers from 10:00–10:30 p.m. ET as audiences watched Spieth birdie the 18th hole and runner-up Dustin Johnson finish with his fatal three-putt.

That is a huge number for golf and bodes well for the game. While Spieth isn’t close to pushing the needle like Woods does, he has the potential to get there.

Anyway, just another way to spin the numbers.



One thought on “Spin the numbers: Telling different story of ratings for U.S. Open

  1. I agree that Spieth has the potential to approach Woods-like numbers down the road. He’s off to a great start in that direction and a good finish, not even necessarily a win but being in contention on Sunday, at The Open at St. Andrews would help speed that along. What will not help that any is Fox having rights to the US Open and any other golf tournament that it has for the next few years, unless they learn how to cover golf better. They may have devoted 10 hours to Sunday but 10 hours of missed shots, poor explanations and lame commentary is just 10 hours of frustration for viewers. They were bailed out by an inherently interesting and tense contest with dramatic changes all day. They may not always be so lucky,

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